LEICESTER, United Kingdom – On the one-year anniversary of the referendum that led to legalized abortion in the country, the island’s Catholic bishops say there’s a challenge to find “new and more effective ways to serve life” in Ireland.

In a statement issued to mark the anniversary, Bishop Kevin Doran and Father Dermot Meehan of the Council for Life of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said they “reaffirm our belief in the fundamental dignity and right to life of every human being from conception to natural death,” adding this “is not simply a matter of faith, it is what reason and common sense suggests.”

“There remains a real sadness that the majority of Irish people, for a variety of reasons, said ‘yes’ to abortion, if not for themselves, then at least as an option for others. We believe that there are many who voted ‘yes’ with a certain ambivalence and who may now not be entirely happy with their choice,” the statement continued.

On May 25, 2018 over 66 percent of the electorate voted to remove protections for the unborn from the constitution of the Republic of Ireland.

Revelations about clerical sexual abuse has left public confidence in the Church at its lowest level in the history of the country, leading to growing secularization in what was once the most Catholic nation in Europe. In 2015, the country held a referendum on same-sex marriage in which 62 percent of the voters backed changing the constitution to allow the practice.

In the latest change, the republic overwhelmingly voted to remove the four-year waiting period for a divorce on Friday.

(Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, although there is growing pressure to change the law to conform with the rest of the UK, where the procedure has been legal since 1967.)

In the aftermath of the abortion referendum, the Irish bishops established a new Council for Life, “to find new and more effective ways to serve life and to bear witness to the essential goodness and beauty of every life.”

In their statement, Doran and Meehan said this is a mission that “we share with all who recognize the right to life, believers and non-believers alike.”

“We encourage all Catholics – irrespective of how they voted – to devote some time today and over this weekend to prayerful reflection about what has happened in our society, especially in the past year,” the bishops said.

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